I have struggled with being the mom of an LD child. There…I have written it now and it is in the open. I have thought about writing this and having it in the world for all to see and then, as soon as I think it, I retract my thoughts. How can I write such a thing? How can I let others know such thoughts? I am supposed to be my child’s advocate and his strength. Today, I am nothing more than a crumpling mom of fear and emotions.
And for as often as I am the strong mom…the advocate mom…the cheerleader mom…the factual mom…I am also just as often the fearful mom…the emotional mom…the hurt mom…the crying mom…the “how can we face this” mom…
I cannot help but to think, for each time I have thought these things, another parent has felt this same way. When I feel this way…I feel alone. How many more feel alone? I feel alone, but perhaps I am not. Perhaps, someone else struggles with this as well.
We started this journey years ago. Learning and academics have always been a struggle for my son. He is smart and bright and I have the IQ tests to prove it. He can comprehend way beyond what is expected of him and years above his grade level. He can visualize something and build it with his hands. He can think. He dreams and has plans. He amazes me daily.
He needs accommodations to learn. I am okay with this. With the proper accommodations in place, my child can strut his stuff. I know he has a plan and a purpose. Ultimately, I do believe his LD is a gift. I believe it has made him a better person. I believe it makes him value what he learns perhaps more than the average child. He works for what he learns. He retains it. He earns it.
I worked with teachers when he was still in a public school to make sure his needs were met. I have argued for his accommodations and access to the same materials. I have stayed up hours into the night to help him learn a skill or to remember something for an assessment. I have sat with him one-on-one for what at times has seemed as an eternity until he understood or just because he can learn better “when [I am] beside [him].” I have watched his mental wheels turn and his light bulbs go off. I have also watched his light bulb grow dimmer and his mental wheels become more jumbled.
Recently, we (I) missed the deadline for accommodations to be approved for a standardized high stakes assessment he needed to take. He took the test without accommodations. We discussed this in advance and he knew it would be difficult, but to try his best. I knew to not be too concerned with the score, as it would not be an accurate reflection of his abilities.
Although, when the test administrator called me days later with his score, I immediately became a huddled mess. He did not do well. I was lost and torn. I was hurt and disheartened. I felt suddenly like all the advancements and all the gains had been for naught. I felt a something in the pit of my stomach balling up from within like I could not explain. Then I thought of my son…when he was taking the test, when he was working on any academic process, when he was trying to decode, when he writes, in all daily academic tasks…I thought of my child. If this is so difficult for me, how much more difficult is it for my son with LD?
For as often as I am confirmed that his LD is a purpose and a gift, I am befuddled by it and torn. For as often as ground is gained, a setback often occurs. For as often as a major academic hurdle is crossed, another barrier is set in the path. For all the training and degrees I have, I am in the least moments just a mom.
When it comes down to the raw moments…I am just a mom of a son. I am just a mom and when my son hurts, I hurt. When my child experiences a difficulty, I do as well. This is real and it happens and when it does I feel alone. I feel I have no one to turn to and no one to help. How could anyone else know how this feels?
A few nights after the phone call of the standardized assessment results came back, I went to dinner with a friend. Her daughter is LD and we talked shop and learning and life. She expressed much of the things I had felt a few days before. My friend noted I was the expert and she was just a mom. And, I had to explain that sometimes all the training in the world is forgotten when it comes down to your child. In that moment, we were just two moms talking about our children. In that moment, I realized I was not alone.
Today, I spent quite a while with a parent from my state discussing at length her son’s IEP and psychoeducational evaluation results. The parent noted sometimes she just needs to talk to someone. When I hung up the phone with her, I realized she just wanted to know she is not alone.
And, my final thought for now on this is that this is how LDA started. It was a movement of a group of concerned parents who wanted what was best for their children…parents who came together to not feel alone…A voice…A gathering…For our children…For my child…
In addition to being Co-Chair of the LDA Membership/Affiliate Support Committee, Analisa Smith, Ed.D., is a member of the LDA of America Board of Directors, State President of South Carolina LDA, an educational consultant and distance education professor. She has worked for over 20 years in public and private education settings.